By Jim “Pappy” Moore
(First of a five-part series.)
I arrived at Lufkin Junior High School in early September of 1961 a boy barely twelve years of age. Having just completed the sixth grade at Coston Elementary School, this would be my entry into the first citywide school I would attend in Lufkin, Texas. I had three years at Coston, preceded by three years at Herty Elementary. Like other students my age, I was entering a much larger school for the first time, where there would be hundreds of students my age, not just the fifty or sixty students we each had seen in our grade at our elementary schools.
I was five feet two inches tall, with a cherubic round face, and a second soprano voice for choir. A year later I would enter the eighth grade at five feet seven inches tall, slender, lean, and playing football. I would be a baritone in Mrs. Carter’s choir. More changes would come the following year with a bass voice and five feet nine inches of height.
Our Junior High School covered the 7th, 8th, and 9th grades. The site was formerly the high school. The football stadium for the high school was behind our school. That meant all football games from 8th, 9th grade, Junior Varsity, and Varsity were played there.
Our incoming class of seventh graders would total around 250 to 300 students. There would be 14 teachers who taught core topics to seventh graders. Band students would be clustered in classrooms close to the band hall, while other students would be placed in locales further away. My class under Mrs. Wooten’s instruction would be the other end of our campus, in an older building.
The excitement of entering Junior High School was palpable. As 12-year-olds we were at the cusp of adolescence but not yet teenagers. We would be mixing on campus with students who were thirteen, fourteen, even fifteen. Some would tower over us.
Lufkin had good bands, good choirs and good athletics. The band was led by Mr. Stroud. He expected and got excellence. The choir was led by Mrs. Carter. She was a stickler for dedication and getting it done right. When you entered the choir room you were expected to immediately fall into your place and start singing a range of notes. She wasted no time and did not want to hear you talking to one another at all. She was all business.
My older sister Judy was in the band, a ninth grader who would leave for high school the following year. Ninth graders and seventh graders lived in separate worlds except in band, choir, and Physical Education.
Pep rallies, choir concerts, athletic events and band performances were aplenty the fall of 1961, but one event would take place which let everyone know who was really in charge: Mother Nature. Hurricane Carla hit the Gulf Coast in full force, making landfall on September 11, 1961. For brand new seventh graders12 years old this was an awakening.
Tens of thousands of people fled the Gulf Coast seeking shelter in Lufkin and other points north. Local businesses, churches, organizations, and individuals opened their doors to the people fleeing the storm. It was a remarkable response in a time of need. Even at age twelve it made me proud to be an East Texan, proud to see our region so supportive of those in dire need.
Copyright 2023, Jim “Pappy” Moore. All rights reserved.